Geoengineering could we or should we make it work

STEPHEN H. SCHNEIDER

Schemes to modify large-scale environment systems or control climate have been proposed for over 150 years to (i) increase temperatures in high latitudes, (ii) increase precipitation, (iii) decrease sea ice, (iv) create irrigation opportunities, or (v) offset potential global warming by injecting iron in the oceans or sea-salt aerosol in the marine boundary layer or spreading dust in the stratosphere to reflect away an amount of solar energy equivalent to the amount of heat trapped by increased greenhouse gases from human activities. These and other proposed geo-engineering schemes are briefly reviewed. Recent schemes to intentionally modify climate have been proposed as either cheaper methods to counteract inadvertent climatic modifications than conventional mitigation techniques such as carbon taxes or pollutant emissions regulations or as a counter to rising emissions as governments delay policy action. Whereas proponents argue cost-effectiveness or the need to be prepared if mitigation and adaptation policies are not strong enough or enacted quickly enough to avoid the worst widespread impacts, critics point to the uncertainty that (i) any geo-engineering scheme would work as planned or (ii) that the many centuries of international political stability and cooperation needed for the continuous maintenance of such schemes to offset century-long inadvertent effects is socially feasible. Moreover, the potential exists for transboundary conflicts should negative climatic events occur during geo-engineering activities.

Geo-Engineering Climate Change: Environmental Necessity or Pandora's Box?, eds. Brian Launder and Michael Thompson. Published by Cambridge University Press. © Cambridge University Press 2010.

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